A bipartisan group of senators from The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) will join the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, on a visit to the Southern Border, in El Paso, Texas, Friday, but the press is not allowed to cover the trip.
The HSGAC is the Senate’s primary oversight committee with broad jurisdiction over government operations and specifically the DHS, which Mayorkas was recently confirmed to lead.
The DHS office of public affairs put out a statement Thursday stating the reason for Secretary Mayorkas’s visit is, “to view operations and receive a briefing on the processing, shelter, and transfer of unaccompanied children arriving at our border,” adding, “This trip will be closed to press due to privacy and COVID-19 precautions.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was recently asked why the Biden administration hasn’t released images from the migrant facilities. Psaki responded: “We remain committed to transparency. I don’t have an update for you on the timeline for access, but it’s certainly something we support.”
Some reporters said they’d been denied requests to ride along with Border Patrol agents. Psaki deferred questioning on the matter.
“We fully support transparency, and I would encourage you to talk to the Department of Homeland Security about any requests you have for press access or what you’re looking to accomplish at the border,” she said.
Texas Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Fox News on Thursday that he has heard of problems that lawmakers and press are having getting access to facilities where illegal immigrants are being kept. Cornyn told Fox that Congressman August Pfluger (R-Texas) had difficulty getting access to a migrant men’s facility there.
“The congressman, August Pfluger, who represents that area, told me he had to wait for two hours outside that facility in order to gain entrance to see what was going on inside,” said Cornyn. “Obviously, that does not build confidence. If they don’t want people inside, particularly the media, it sends the message, “We got something to hide.'”
Meanwhile, there have been no details released about the Friday visit to El Paso by Mayorkas except that Ranking Member Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will both be on the trip. The HSGAC has not held any hearings about the Southern border situation since late 2019.
Portman, however, on March 11 called on the Biden administration to address the crisis of unaccompanied minors coming to the southern border during a speech on the Senate floor.
“I’m disappointed that the Biden administration chose to overturn policies put in place by the Trump administration to help control the flow of migrants during this pandemic without any viable alternatives. And I am concerned that leaders at key agencies involved in the response to this crisis are somehow seeing it in their interest to downplay the severity of the situation,” said Portman.
“I urge the Biden administration to change course, put back in place smart policies that reduce the pull factors, and address the need for legal and orderly processes for migration.”